By Josh Cohen
Aug. 5, 2017
ORLANDO – It’s important for children to stay focused on their academics even when they are on summer break. Reading books, a fun and rewarding way for kids to stay connected, helps youth improve their concentration, vocabulary, language skills and broadens their imagination.
With assistance from the Orlando Magic and Florida Blue, more kids are aware of the benefits of reading and storytelling. They partnered up to celebrate the Orange County Library Systems (OCLS) Summer Reading Program, which helps engage local students in literacy and learning. Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw and STUFF the Magic Mascot were also on hand to participate and encourage the children during Saturday’s event at Orlando’s downtown library.
“We can go back in my time how my parents and my grandparents would tell you how important it is to pick up a book, pick up a newspaper and stay sharp in reading,” Anderson said. “That still applies to young people today. I encourage them to pick up a book, go to a library, sit down and read.”
The program, which ran from June 3 to Aug. 5 and featured a variety of fun and entertaining activities, classes and camps, makes it easier for youth to transition back into their educational habits and routines when they return to school.
The first 200 kids that read and submitted a book review won two tickets to a Magic home game during the 2017-18 season. Other prizes such as iPads, bikes, tickets to local attractions, a staycation package and a signed Magic basketball were also awarded to deserving children.
“It’s huge, reading is everything,” said Corey Adebule, sales consultant in Florida Blue’s Winter Park retail center. “It’s beautiful. When we can take the act of reading and learning and link that with gifts and all these different giveaways, it’s wonderful. It’s always about giving back to the community.”
This celebration was entwined with the Magic and Florida Blue’s Baskets for Books program, which makes a huge difference on literacy and learning in the Central Florida community. For every point scored by the Magic at home games, one book is donated to the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County. Since program inception, more than 42,000 books have been given out and more than 3,100 books were donated last season with the help of Houghton Mifflin & Harcourt Publishing Company.
Many kids are lacking the resources to remain committed and devoted to their education. In fact, 83 percent of the preschool and after-school programs serving at-risk children do not have access to books and 68 percent of low-income families do not own any children’s books in their homes (according to U.S. Department of Education).
Also, children who live in low-income homes will have heard 32 million fewer words by the time they are 4 years old than those who read on a daily basis and have books in their home.
Literacy is one of the Magic’s three main focus areas. Without a strong mind and an enthusiasm for learning, it’s difficult for children to have success in school.
There was plenty of passion and delight for reading at Saturday’s celebration. It’s a refreshing reminder for youth that education can and should be fun.
“Education is something that will stay with you for a lifetime,” Anderson said. “It’s the key. It’s extremely important.”